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Authors: Jo Leigh

One Blazing Night

BOOK: One Blazing Night
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He's a friend...with great benefits!

As far as inventor Samantha O'Connel is concerned, work is better than food, a social life...even sex. Of course, all it takes is a single phone call from Matt Wilkinson—the ridiculously hot object of her girlhood fantasies—for Sam to discover even
she
has some naughty needs that won't be ignored.

Sam's biggest challenge is that while Matt is just as much a workaholic as she is, he's also a wealthy, sexy bachelor who could have any woman he wants. With the help of the cutting-edge “smart” apartment she designed, Sam might just be able to get deliciously and nakedly close to Matt. Close enough to show him that this nerdy brainiac can be his
every
fantasy...even if it's only for one blazingly hot night.

“Watching you...seeing your pleasure...is exciting...”

“You're prejudiced,” Sam teased as she sprawled beside Matt on the couch.

“Yep.”

They were quiet for a moment. Watching the tape of themselves avidly. It wasn't the kind of sex that was scandalous. It was slow. No music. But it was raw and exciting. The feeling of being inside Sam swept over Matt, making his belly clench. It was a little crazy considering what he'd just figured out.

He touched her cheek, wondering if she was seeing the same thing he was. They weren't just having sex. They were making love.

By all rights the realization should've scared the hell out of him.

“This makes me want you all over again,” he whispered, pulling her onto his lap.

Her voice became husky. “Prove it...”

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Three Wicked Nights trilogy! Finally, I get to write Sam's book. She's the one who designed the smart apartment. The one the guys looked after when she was at MIT. Only, not all of her college heroes have given the apartment a trial run.

In fact, the only one she's lost touch with is Matt Wilkinson, the heir apparent to the Wilkinson family. Matt has large shoes to fill as he rises up the corporate ladder, but a short trip to Boston changes things.

He surprises his old friend Samantha, who lends him the smart apartment, but she's freaked out by his arrival! Doesn't he know that she had a crush on him for far too long?

Matt isn't just coming to catch up with Sam. He wants to make amends for something he'd done in the past. Something that he's never forgiven himself for.

What neither of them counted on was that the spark between the old friends lights up like a beacon from the moment they see each other. Only this time it's not a girlish crush Sam has, but a full-on case of unrequited love.

I had a great time writing this book. Matt is one of my all-time favorite heroes, and I hope you fall in love with him just like I did.

You can find me at
jomk.tumblr.com
. Come on by and drop me a note!

Take care,

Jo Leigh

Jo Leigh

One Blazing Night

Jo Leigh
is from Los Angeles and
always thought she'd end up living in Manhattan. So how did she end up in Utah
in a tiny town with a terrible internet connection, being bossed around by a
houseful of rescued cats and dogs? What the heck, she says, predictability is
boring. Jo has written more than forty-five novels for Harlequin. Visit her
website at
joleigh.com
or contact her at
[email protected]
.

Books by Jo Leigh

Harlequin Blaze

Ms. Match

Sexy Ms. Takes

Shiver

Hotshot

Lying in Bed

All the Right Moves

Three Wicked Nights

One Breathless Night

One Sizzling Night

One Blazing Night

It's Trading Men

Choose Me

Have Me

Want Me

Seduce Me

Dare Me

Intrigue Me

To get the inside scoop on Harlequin Blaze
and its talented writers, be sure to check out
BlazeAuthors.com
.

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To my friends Jill Shalvis and Debbi Rawlins and my wonderful editor, Birgit Davis-Todd.

1

A
S
THE
MUSIC
from her headphones blasted the sound track from
Raiders of the Lost Ark
, Samantha O'Connel narrowed her eyes in her attempt to read a note left by her newest part-time employee, Tina Albert. Tina was an MIT student, just like the other six people Sam employed at her company, SOC Electronics. Tina was cute, bright, witty, completely dedicated to doing a good job. And she had terrible handwriting.

It wasn't her fault, really. By the time Tina was born, there were millions of teenagers who hardly ever needed to write. They came of age at the dawn of smartphones. But Tina would have to learn to write more clearly.

Sam rubbed her eyes and took another look. Maybe she could have read the chicken scratches if she hadn't worked until midnight. She'd skipped dinner and hadn't looked up until just past midnight. Again.

She was getting old. At twenty, sleep had been optional, but at twenty-nine, there were only so many nights she could get five hours and feel refreshed the next day. She certainly needed to be alert.

Ah. The note was a reminder that the new hard drive had been delivered to the smart apartment. Sam didn't have time to install it and wouldn't for at least a week. Neither would Clark, though she wouldn't have asked him to anyway. The prototype apartment was her baby—she'd bought the building in Boston's Financial District with her personal money and designed all the electronics herself. Luckily, the new drive wasn't actually necessary for the apartment to function, but it would help with the intermittent sensor problems she'd noted on her logs.

So far, the apartment was a raging success but needed some refinements. No paying guests had stayed there yet, only her friends and family. Each one had given her a critique and made suggestions—some of them really good—but she was too busy for a hobby that was so complex. Sadly, that was the only kind of hobby she liked. Well, except for gaming. Which was more part of her DNA than a hobby.

Clark, who'd been her assistant since her senior year at MIT, had told her they needed to hire people to help with administrative duties, man the booths at trade shows, and more important, take over some of the testing of new parts and equipment, the writing of instruction manuals and the handling of customer support lines. Which meant whomever they hired had a steep learning curve from day one.

She'd always hated delegating, but when Clark pointed out the new employees would be taking over things both of them hated to do, she'd jumped all over it. With the exception of Tina, the students all worked on the second floor, under Clark's supervision, so that Sam had minimal contact with them.

It wasn't that she was a snob; she just wasn't the most social person. She'd started working on her own in high school, and with one notable exception, her solo work habits had solidified at MIT. By the time she'd graduated, she'd decided, against her parents' firm objections, not to accept the invitations to join Google or Apple or Microsoft and to just do what she liked. So she'd started SOC Electronics—not only her initials, but also the acronym of a computer miracle device called the System On Chip, which integrated all the
components of a computer into a single chip.

She'd become a corporation bef
ore she'd turned twenty. It had been difficult to work with Clark in the beginning, but now he was like another pair of her own hands. In the end, Sam was in charge of the tech creation and problem solving. Clark was in charge of the rest. Tina was a one-off. She was really smart, but dammit, she was still afraid to jump in during brainstorming sessions.

Sam sighed. She was probably being too harsh on the girl. Tina had a lot of potential, and in time, Sam believed she'd turn out to be a real asset. If Sam had got enough sleep last night, she probably wouldn't be feeling so cranky.

Lesson? For God's sake, go to sleep at a sane hour even if it meant not completing a drawing or leaving a task for the next day.

She grabbed her phone and set the alarm. At eight o'clock she'd stop working, no matter what. Then she'd make sure she was asleep by eleven.

Her cell phone flashed with a new call, making her jerk as if she'd been slapped. It was only Clark getting her attention. After pulling out her right earbud, she turned to find him coming from the clean room at the back of the building.

By the time he'd passed the computers and large schematics workstations occupying the middle of the workshop, he'd pulled off his clean-room whites, leaving him in his regular jeans and T-shirt. “I'm doing a run to the stationery store after lunch. If you want anything—”

“Yes.” She swiveled her chair so she could look straight at him. Her gaze caught on the nifty new 3-D resin printer that she couldn't even play with until this job was done. Tina was going to learn everything there was to know about the machine so she could show Sam how to use it. “I need more mechanical pencils.”

“Already? You do know that most people don't use a pencil a day, right? What am I saying. You want more pencils, I'll get them for you. Anything else?”

She winced but said it anyway, as quickly as she could. “A combo falafel-and-shawarma plate with a side of baba ghanoush?”

Clark gave her a very judgey look. “Sam. It's almost lunchtime. Do you have any idea how long it's going to take me to find a parking spot?”

“We could send Tina.”

“Tina isn't here this morning. Remember? Dentist. She has a thing about Novocain... Never mind.”

Sam almost suggested sending someone from upstairs, but she was sidelined by Clark's comment. He knew Tina had a thing about Novocain? Huh. Clark often talked about the troops, but this was a new level of detail. “Admit it,” she said as she smiled. “You want a falafel, too, don't you?”

He looked very put-upon even though it was more out of habit than any real issue. He really was the safest human she knew. It helped that he had no interest whatsoever in her social life.

“Yes,” he said. “Dammit. You're evil. And you have to call in the orders. But you're still evil. A pox upon thee.”

“Oh, my...you had the D&D tournament last night, didn't you? It must have gone well or you'd have already bitched to me about it.”

“I'm still in.”

“Cool. Watch out for that guy, the blond with the—” She wiggled her fingers near her ear. She hated those big black plugs in the middle of the lobe. They made her skin crawl.

“Oh, he's out. He's out so far he has to wear an oxygen tank.”

“Well played, Dark Mage of Harrow Glen.”

He bowed, then took off his bootees, but that didn't make his courtly gesture any less goofy. Hell, she was just as bad. Her love of computer games and the cosplay that came with it had been the genesis of her whole career, one that was more successful than she could have ever predicted.

In the past four years, she'd revolutionized spyware with her new sensor technology and signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the US Department of Defense. But it was her coding skills and the development of two different antihacking programs that had brought in the big money. She rarely thought about that, though. She was happy with her little house and her huge lab. They were on adjoining plots of land in Bay Village, and being so close to the heart of downtown Boston made everything so simple. That she was a wealthy entrepreneur felt so discordant with the image she held of herself. Truth was, she was happiest playing “Ms. Pac-Man” on the vintage arcade machine she kept in her living room.

As Clark raided the petty cash for lunch money, she called in their orders. The Falafel King was number seven on the speed dial. What did that say about her life? Nothing she wanted to think about now. After ordering, she went to her drafting table and took another look at the schematics for the nano drive she'd been working on. The temperature issue was fixed—sort of. It would mean the buyers would have to build special cold rooms that had to be so safe they'd stand up to the end of the world. But that wasn't the problem she was working on today.

After putting her earbud in once more, letting her classical music light up her brain, she put her cell phone close enough that she'd notice if Clark called again. Then Sam began her review of the design in her usual way, starting wherever her eyes fell, usually somewhere in the middle. God, how her technique had driven her professors insane.

Something occurred to her—a bright shiny idea that might just solve an issue she'd shoved to the back of her mind, and then she was in the zone.

At the worst possible time, she caught her cell phone flashing. “Clark,” she muttered as she ripped out her right earbud and answered. “What?”

“Huh. That's one way to answer the phone.”

It wasn't—

But it couldn't be—

Matthew Wilkinson. Matt?
Matt!

Sam hadn't heard his voice in a very long time.

Her eyes shut tight as the world stopped turning. As the memories piled one on top of another. He was her first. Her very, very first love. And her first heartbreak.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been dancing on the head of a pin, but surely he must have thought she'd fainted or something. Well,
something
had definitely happened—most of her major organs were spinning around like tops.

Matt had been one of her best friends back in her MIT days. She'd been fourteen as a freshman, so all her friends had been four or five years older—and they'd all happened to be guys. They'd bonded over gaming, Marvel comics and bad horror movies. And none of them had been bothered by her age. The guys had protected her. Teased her. And they hadn't cared that she had the social skills of a paper clip.

“Hello? Still there?”

“Hu...hi, Matt?”

“You okay?”

“Just dropped my pencil,” she said, gripping the phone so tightly she thought it might break. “Sorry.”

“I know it's been forever. How are you, Sammy?” he asked, his voice dipping lower in a way that made her melt.

No one called her Sammy. She hadn't heard that name in so long she'd figured she'd never hear it again. It made her blush, and she was grateful there was nobody there to see her. She needed to get off the phone. She couldn't think. There was too much going on in her head and she'd already started doodling, which wasn't helping. All she needed to do was tell him she'd call him back. “I'm...I'm...fine. I'm good. Better.”

“Better? Was something wrong?”

“No. Not as such. No. Just— That would be no. Nothing was wrong. I meant to say ‘richer.'”

He laughed. “I'd kind of figured that after reading about your work. So you weren't quite as dim as we all led you to believe, huh?”

“Not quite.” Her face was so hot she was reasonably sure she was going to burst into flames any second. She was a jumble of emotions. It wasn't fair, him calling her out of the blue. It had taken her so long to get over him, after all. “How are you?” she asked, trying to keep her voice cheerful.

That should buy her a couple of minutes. But she needed to listen. What if he said he was dying or something and she missed it?

“I'm good. Jet-lagged. Just got in from Tokyo.”

“Godzilla stirring up trouble again?”

“I wish,” he said, his voice the same. Exactly the same. She wanted to curl up under the covers and dream about him for a week. “Nothing but boring contracts to negotiate.”

“But you still like being a lawyer, right?”

“Some days are better than others. But yeah.”

“And you're living in New York?” Was she supposed to know that was where he lived? Oh, God. Why was she still talking?

“I am,” he said, the words delivering both disappointment and relief. If he'd moved back to Boston, she would've died. “Hey, I heard from Logan last night.”

Logan was part of the gang that had always had her back in college. “I saw him in June,” she said, thankful for the safe shift in conversation.

“Yeah, I know. He said that crazy apartment of yours is not to be missed. I'm a little hurt that I wasn't invited for a test run.”

Hi there, worst nightmare!
She held back the groan that had come with the thought.
“We haven't talked since you... For a long time. I wasn't sure...”

“That's true,” he said, rescuing her as he'd done so often when her words got stuck. Then he sighed. “I want to blame it on traveling the way I do. And my marriage. Or my divorce. Pick one, and it'll be true. Bottom line? I've thought about you. Especially when I've happened to catch yet another article about some new, brilliant thing you've invented. To be honest, I figured you'd probably only answer the phone for Stephen Hawking, not guys like me.”

“Not a guy like you? I talk to Logan and Rick. They're not Hawking. I don't even know Stephen Hawking. He never calls.”

“Never writes? Bastard.”

She smiled and some of her parts relaxed. Not her heart, though. That was still doing cartwheels even as she tried to put on the brakes. “I'm still me,” she said, as a reminder to herself more than him. “Still can't talk on the phone worth a damn. Still watching my old copies of
Robot Chicken
and playing ‘World of Warcraft.'”

“Thank God,” he said. “I'd hate it if you weren't you. No, that's wrong. We all change, and I'm sure you have, too. You're certainly doing a great job in the career department.”

“I have people. Lawyers. A financial planner and a business manager. They talk business. I talk to tech people, so that's like school.”

“I'm glad. I really am. Look, I'm coming to Boston for a week or so, and I'd love to stay in that smart apartment, at least for a few days. But mostly, I want to see you.”

See her? Why? “Okay,” she said, because she was an idiot and she couldn't think straight and this was Matt. “When are you coming?”

BOOK: One Blazing Night
5.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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